January 16, 2021
The effect of the coronavirus pandemic could have much longer term effects than previously thought. New research shows the pandemic is taking more than a year off of the average US life expectancy.
A study out of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that COVID-19 will reduce life expectancy in 2020 by 1.13 years, CNN reported.
Adrasfay and Goldman, leaders of the study, used Census Bureau data and projected COVID-19 deaths data from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the National Center for Health Statistics for the study.
"Our medium estimate indicates a reduction in US life expectancy at birth of 1.13 years to 77.48 years, lower than any year since 2003," the researchers said. "This impact is about 10 times as large as the worrisome annual decreases several years ago that were attributed largely to drug overdoses, other external causes, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases."
Data out of the NCHS suggests that COVID-19 led to a jump in the US mortality rate in the second quarter last year.
In 2020, the age-adjusted all-cause mortality rate rose from a first quarter rate of 769 per 100,000 to 840 per 100,000 in the second quarter. Death rates in the second quarter of 2019 was 702 per 100,000, marking a jump of 138 per 100,000 in just one year.
There is only data available for the first two quarters currently available. Yet, the CDC said last week that COVID-19 was likely the third leading cause of death in 2020, causing 316,252 to 431,792 additional deaths in 2020. Heart disease and cancer were the 2020 top two leading causes.
The pandemic will also disproportionately affect the number of deaths among Black and Latino populations.
Researchers of the study said estimated mortality rates for the Black and Latino populations were three to four times that of white populations.
"Black and Latino Americans have experienced a disproportionate burden of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality, reflecting persistent structural inequalities that increase risk of exposure to Covid-19 and mortality risk for those infected," the study said.
Before the pandemic, national life expectancy rates for minority populations had been making steady progress. The pandemic is projected to cause the life expectancy of minorities to decline between 2.10 and 3.05 years from birth.
The white life expectancy is projected to have a 0.68-year decline.
"Covid-19 is expected to reverse over 10 years of progress made in closing the Black−White gap in life expectancy and reduce the previous Latino mortality advantage by over 70%," according to the researchers of the study, CNN reported.
The pandemic is also disrupting a trend of increasing overall life expectancy over the past century. Life expectancy increased by almost 10 years from 69.9 years in 1959 to 78.9 years in 2016.
The study suggests that the effects of the pandemic are projected to last well past 2020.
"Some reductions in life expectancy may persist beyond 2020 because of continued COVID-19 mortality and long-term health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic," the study said.